Trigger warning: Discussion on risk of suicide, suicidal thinking, self-harm, and harmful (but non-suicidal) behaviours in the autistic community.
Unfortunately, being an internal autistic, especially when you didn’t know you were autistic for most of your life, can lead to poor mental health and suicidality. This is linked to the fact that as an internal, un-discovered autistic, it is most likely that you have had to camouflage your autistic-ness – your stimming; your way of perceiving the world and social interactions; your you-ness.
It is becoming better understood that camouflaging is linked to autistic overwhelm, depression; and more recently suicidality:
“Results confirm previously reported high rates of suicidality in ASC [autistic spectrum condition], and demonstrate that ASC diagnosis, and self-reported autistic traits in the general population are independent risk markers for suicidality. This suggests there are unique factors associated with autism and autistic traits that increase risk of suicidality. Camouflaging and unmet support needs appear to be risk markers for suicidality unique to ASC. Non-suicidal self-injury, employment, and mental health problems appear to be risk markers shared with the general population that are significantly more prevalent in the autistic community.“
Important to note, and a silver-lining, is that hopefully SYA? can allow you to be your autistic self, reducing the negative impact of camouflaging. The study cited states that it is likely that autistics who camouflage do so because:
“[we] must have insight into one’s own difficulties, how these may be negatively perceived by others, and have a strong motivation to adapt one’s social behaviour to be accepted. Understanding associations between these factors with camouflaging, and the consequent impact on mental health would be valuable. For example, autistic people who have greater insight into their own difficulties are more likely to be depressed than those with less insight , and autistic people are able to accurately predict how family members perceive them, despite being different to their own view . It would be interesting to explore whether perspective taking ability and insight into one’s own difficulties increase likelihood of engaging in camouflaging behaviour with consequent negative impact on mental health and suicidality.”
Put another way, we camouflage because we are aware of ourselves and others, and the pressure put on us to be “normal”. Hopefully, you will find that a positive acceptance of your autistic self leads to less camouflaging, and thus better overall well-being.
“Increasing acceptance of autistic people in society could therefore lead to a reduced need for camouflaging and increased feelings of belonging—a protective factor for suicidality [17, 23].”
While the public can be slow to catch-up, do remember that there is a wonderful autistic community out there, and in SYA? Being a part of this community, breaking down your camouflage/mask and helping you develop your own identity are all very protective for your well-being.
ALWAYS remember: if you need urgent support, please call the Samaritans FREE on 116 123.
Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time, from any phone on 116 123.
We’re here round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call us on the phone. This number is FREE to call. You don’t have to be suicidal to call us.
Cassidy, S., Bradley, L., Shaw, R., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). Risk markers for suicidality in autistic adults. Molecular Autism, 9(42), 1-14. doi: 10.1186/s13229-018-0226-4